Syrians vote in elections to extend al-Assad’s grip on power | News from Bashar al-Assad
Voters in government-controlled regions of Syria are heading to the polls to vote in an election that should cement a fourth term for Bashar al-Assad – but which is rejected by the opposition and Western powers as a farce.
Wednesday’s presidential vote is the second since the start of the war uprising in Syria a decade ago, a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to leave the country. In 2014, al-Assad won almost 89% of the vote.
Al-Assad is running against two government-approved opposition candidates: Abdullah Salloum Abdullah, former Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs; and Mahmoud Ahmad Marei, leader of the National Democratic Front, a small state-backed opposition party. Forty-eight other presidential candidates had submitted candidacy requests, but their candidacies were rejected.
Al-Assad voted in Douma, near the capital, Damascus, a former rebel stronghold and the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack by government forces in 2018.
Layla *, a student based in Damascus, said polling stations were full of voters all morning and many students were forced to vote. “Some universities will fail or even kick you out if you don’t vote,” she told Al Jazeera.
“But it doesn’t matter; we all know what the results will be because these elections are just a spectacle, ”she said, adding that none of the three candidates represented her.
Al-Assad, whose “Hope Through Work” election campaign focused heavily on job creation, sure to win another seven-year term despite 10 years of war, poverty and a plummeting economy . Nadine *, a Damascus resident who decided not to vote, said locals had been more outspoken in conversations about the economic crisis.
“People are complaining about poverty and inflation,” she told Al Jazeera. “But the opposition is much more hated than the regime.”
Danny Makki, a non-resident researcher at the Middle East Institute, says the economic crisis has led to “maximum discontent” even among the government’s biggest supporters.
“Although the elections were festive to say the least, [the] post-election [period] this is where the real challenge awaits you, ”he told Al Jazeera. “How well can al-Assad keep the economy afloat and deal with Syria’s problems, even with the Russians and the Iranians, is a difficult question,” he added, noting that the President planned to consolidate power in parts of Syria that were recently captured by rebel groups. years.
Al-Assad’s allies Iran and Russia, as well as Belarus, sent delegations to monitor the elections.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy issued a joint statement in which they called the polls a sham. “For an election to be credible, all Syrians should be allowed to participate, including internally displaced Syrians, refugees and members of the diaspora, in a safe and neutral environment,” the statement said. .
Speaking to the media after voting in Douma, al-Assad dismissed the criticism.
“As a state, we don’t care at all about such statements,” he said. “But what people say is more important than what the government says or doesn’t say. I think that’s what we’ve seen in recent weeks. This is a clear answer to all of these people and it tells them that your opinions are zero worth. “
At the start of voter registration last month, US and French officials told Al Jazeera the elections would be neither free nor fair without a political solution to the longstanding war.
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), which controls northeastern Syria, has criticized al-Assad’s government for obstructing negotiations and meetings. “We will not be part of the presidential election process and we will not participate in it,” he said in a statement.
Like Western states, the SDC has called for the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 2254, which was unanimously adopted at the end of 2015 and calls for an end to hostilities and a political solution to the Syrian conflict.
The resolution aims to pave the way for internationally monitored elections following the constitutional amendments.
* The name has changed to protect the identity of the person